Remember the date: 20th September 2018. Because this is the date when Tesco launched their new discount brand Jack’s onto the UK High Street.
At the press conference held at the Chatteris Jack’s store the day before, there was a positive media scrum. Over 100 crammed in to hear what Tesco CEO Dave Lewis had to tell us about the fascia designed to take on rivals Aldi and Lidl head on.
Part of the Tesco family but otherwise not (no online and no club card points), Jack’s is a curious mix: one analyst describing it as being ‘the biggest compliment to Aldi and Lidl’ whilst most felt it had been executed well.
Such was the magnitude of the occasion that even Dave Lewis was hard pressed to remember when Tesco last launched a new brand.
So, what conclusions can we make so far?
The concept appears well thought through; relying heavily on the heritage of Tesco, we were treated to a video montage highlighting the milestones in their journey from Tesco Tea and the first store in Burnt Oak opened in 1929 to founder Jack Cohen’s epiphany in 1946 when he saw the self service supermarkets in the US to the present day and the ‘loss of sight of the customer’ in more recent times.
But this left this writer wondering how many of the good folk of Chatteris had ever heard of Jack Cohen, much less care?
The key here can perhaps be taken from what UK CEO Jason Tarry had to say: “We wanted to get back to being the champion of the customer”.
Carrying just 2,600 lines – 1,800 of which are Jack’s own brand the stores are a much simpler version of Tesco and play strongly to being British; indeed this mantra was repeated over and over by anyone present who was wearing a Tesco badge – 8 out of 10 products stocked are British.
In the words of their inspiration, Jack Cohen, Jack’s are designed to be ‘no fuss, no frills, simple and warm’.
But currently the plans show that they don’t appear to want to be the cheapest in many towns.
Two stores – Chatteris in Cambridgshire and Immingham in Lincolnshire have opened today with plans for just 10 to 15 to follow. Repurposing space (Chatteris was originally due to be a Tesco Extra but was mothballed in 2014) forms a focal part of the strategy.
This begs the question: is this an elaborate centenary celebration or a trojan horse for a much bigger entry into the discount market.
In the words of one analyst I spoke to at the press launch “this seems to be more of a property exercise than anything else”.
Time will tell but for now the good people of Chatteris have just got themselves a great new addition to their supermarket experience.